President Barack Obama visited a federal prison in Oklahoma last week to discuss sentencing reform for non-violent drug offenses. At an event in Arlington, Virginia, on Tuesday, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson revealed that he, too, had visited federal prisons—and had a much different takeaway. Federal prisons are really nice!
"I was flabbergasted by the accommodations—the exercise equipment, the libraries and the computers," he said. He said he was told that "a lot of times when it's about time for one of the guys to be discharged, especially when its winter, they'll do something so they can stay in there."
"I think that we need to sometimes ask ourselves, 'Are we creating an environment that is conducive to comfort where a person would want to stay, versus an environment where we maybe provide them an opportunity for rehabilitation but is not a place that they would find particularly comfortable?'" he told reporters.
Not all federal prisons are alike, but to put his experiences in perspective, Carson may want to read up on the federal maximum-security facility in Florence, Colorado:
A federal class-action lawsuit filed in June alleges that many ADX prisoners suffer from severe mental illness that has been exacerbated or even caused by their years of extreme isolation and sensory deprivation in small concrete cells. It claims that the BOP fails to provide even a semblance of psychiatric care to these prisoners, with grisly results. According to a litigation fact sheet, "inmates often mutilate themselves with razors, shards of glass, sharpened chicken bones, writing utensils and other objects. Many engage in prolonged fits of screaming and ranting. Others converse aloud with the voices they hear in their heads. Still others spread feces and other waste throughout their cells. Suicide attempts are common. Many have been successful.
Four days after mocking Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for being captured in Vietnam, Donald Trump is at the top of the Republican presidential polls. Despite his history of political flip flops, Trump has gained traction with red-meat-loving conservatives by skewering and belittling establishment figures such as McCain and Karl Rove, questioning President Barack Obama's legitimacy, and attacking undocumented immigrants. But he's also been quick to fling insults at anyone who ever says anything bad about him—other celebrities, journalists, legislators, and this one poor guy from Bermuda. Donald Trump insults people.
And now you, too, can be insulted by the tirade-prone tycoon—with the Mother Jones Donald Trump Insult Generator™. Just enter your name (or your friend's name, or the name of your favorite stupid clown political pundit with bad ratings) and give it a spin. Just don't expect an apology:
Basin and Range National Monument in Nevada, one of three new monuments created by President Obama in July.
For the last half century, Michael Heizer has been working on a secretive project in an isolated patch of the Great Basin Desert in southeast Nevada. It is an abstract art installation, more than a mile in length and a quarter mile in width, inspired by the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza, and exhaustively carved out of concrete and dirt. "[I]t may be the most ambitious sculpture anyone has ever built," the New York Times recently declared—"a pristine, lunar stretch of stark and unspeakable beauty, an hour's bumpy drive from the nearest paved road." It is almost certainly the only piece of remote land-art that is likely to become a campaign issue during the quest for the Republican presidential nomination.
Dubbed "City," Heizer's work is predicated on emptiness, and the artist and his patrons have long feared that his tableau would be marred by the development of the surrounding pubic lands. (He once threatened to destroy City when the Bush administration proposed building a nuclear waste dump at nearby Yucca Mountain in 2004.) Fortunately, Heizer has friends in high places. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who calls Heizer's project "priceless," lobbied President Barack Obama to protect the region surrounding City, known as the Basin and Range. In early July, citing his powers under the Antiquities Act of 1906, Obama signed an executive order designating a Rhode Island-sized swath of Nevada as a new national monument. One of the reasons the White House gave was to protect City, which it hailed as "one of the most ambitious examples of the distinctively American land-art movement."
The monument designation, which affords a degree of protection similar to that of a national park, guarantees that City and its surroundings will survive intact for generations to come. And for the Republican presidential field, therein lies the problem.
The beautiful new Basin and Range National Monument will feature the modern art sculpture City. Come visit soon! pic.twitter.com/yURmChiyTe
Basin and Range National Monument is a feather in the cap of Obama and Reid (who quoted cowboy poetry in praise of the proclamation), but it represents something far more nefarious to Nevada Republicans—a federal power grab of already precious resources. Which means that opposition to Basin and Range's monument designation stands a good chance of becoming a litmus test for Republican presidential candidates courting Nevada voters ahead of next February's first-in-the-West presidential caucus.
Not long after the ink had dried on the president's signature, Ben Carson slammed the decision, declaring that he was "deeply offended" at the president's "disregard for discovering common sense decisions when it comes to deciding how best to protect natural resources and reconcile the economic impacts into local communities."
After a town hall in Carson City last week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush followed suit. "I don't think expanding the narrowing use of public lands is appropriate," he told reporters. "There's ways you can build consensus to protect the natural environment and allow people to access their land."
Although most of the Nevada's voters live in a handful of urban counties, the Basin and Range backlash fits neatly into the larger conservative critique of federal power in the Obama age. Heizer, who owns the land City sits on, is the exception in Lincoln County, where 98 percent of the land belongs to the federal government. Elevating that land to monument status puts it that much more out of reach for uses such as mining*. The state's three Republican congressmen pushed a bill in January that would have prohibited the creation of new national monuments in Nevada without congressional authorization. (Rep. Mark Amodei angrily dubbed Basin and Range "Hairy Berry National Monument," a weird riff on Reid and Obama's first names.) Popular GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, whose endorsement is coveted by 2016 candidates, also criticized the Obama administration's move.
The fight over public lands in the West has only intensified in recent years. It was in rural Nevada last year, a few hours south of City, that rancher Cliven Bundy led an armed standoff against Bureau of Land Management agents over unpaid grazing fees. Few elected officials took Bundy's side directly—especially after he started talking about "the Negro"—but his complaint of federal overreach struck a chord.
Case in point: When Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) visited the state last month, he met privately with Bundy for 45 minutes. Paul hasn't weighed in on Basin and Range directly, but two weeks before Obama's proclamation, he reiterated his call for all of Nevada's federal lands to be turned over to the state. "State ownership would be better, but even better would be private ownership," Paul said. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) hasn't gone quite as far as Paul, but in 2014 he proposed an amendment to a piece of hunting legislation that would have prohibited the federal government from owning more than 50 percent of the land in any state—meaning he would have put 31.1 percent of Nevada up for sale. (The bill failed.) Cruz's campaign did not respond to a request for comment about his position on Basin and Range specifically.
For now, only two 2016 contenders have weighed in directly. But the campaign is only just picking up steam. At least seven candidates will attend a candidate forum near Lake Tahoe next month. We'll see if they take a stand on City, and the 704,000 acres that now protect it.
*Correction: This piece originally suggested that the new national monument would be off-limits to ranching.
"Tinted meatball" Donald Trump attacked the Vietnam service of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) at a social conservative confab in Iowa on Saturday, boasting that the 2008 Republican presidential nominee was only considered a war hero "because he was captured."
"I like people that weren't captured, okay?," he told moderator Frank Luntz.
Trump, who missed the Vietnam War after getting a series of student and medical deferments, has now left an opening for the Republican presidential candidates who trail him in the polls (which is most of them) to get a few clean jabs in. But it's not as simple as it sounds. McCain is not a popular figure among conservative activists, and the entire appeal of Trump is that he says things like this about people that conservative activists don't like. (It certainly wouldn't be the first time conservative voters overlooked a gratuitous shot at a candidate's war record because they didn't like his politics.)
This retort, from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), Washington's most notorious immigration hawk, is just weird.
I uh...didn't know that. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro is Mexican-American, the son of a noted Chicano political activist from San Antonio. A local newspaper profile in 2002 describes King's ancestry as Irish, German, and Welsh. Steve King is not Hispanic or Latino by any conventional definition.
We've reached out to King's office for clarification and will update if we get a response.